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New Show Recap: Game of Thrones, Episode 3.1, “Valar Dohaeris”

All men must serve.

North of the Wall

The episode  opens where last season’s finale left off – with Sam witnessing the White Walkers’ attack on the Night’s Watch at Fist of the First Men. By their powers combined, Jon’s direwolf Ghost and Jorah Mormont save Sam’s life: but Sam failed at his only task: to get the ravens away, and so the remnants of the Night’s Watch must survive to get back to the Wall and warn the realm.

We have to warn them, or before winter is done you and everyone you’ve ever known will be dead.

Jon, meanwhile, has to survive something almost as risky: his introduction to the King Beyond the Wall. He buggers it up at the start, first mistaking the red-bearded chicken-eating Thormund Giantsbane for Mance, then kneeling to him, then giving an unbelievable answer to Mance’s question. Mance can see Jon wants to be a hero: but why? Jon tells just enough of the truth – about Craster’s sacrifice of his sons and Mormont’s refusal to do anything about it – to be convincing, and he lives to be called a “baby crow” another day.

I want to fight for the side that fights for the living. Did I come to the right place?

So the real war has begun, and no one knows it but the Wildlings and their sworn enemies, the ragged Night’s Watch survivors. Will they survive long enough to warn the Seven Kingdoms? And will anyone listen if they do?

Also, GIANTS ARE TOTALLY A REAL THING.

A giant stares at Jon Snow
You talkin’ to me?

Harrenhal

Robb has arrived at Harrenhal, chasing Lannisters, who refuse to fight him. They find Harrenhal abandoned and all the Stark-allied prisoners (including Catelyn’s father’s Tully bannermen) murdered “like sheep” by The Mountain, who Tywin Lannister left to hold Harrenhal. Lord Bolton promises Lord Karstark revenge once Jaime is caught, but Karstark is unconvinced. Robb, hyper-aware that his men are spoiling for a fight, orders Catelyn imprisoned in Harrenhal, despite Talisa’s protests. Talisa’s medical skills come in handy, however, when one of the dead men revives.

Talisa and Robb rush to Qyburn's side
I don’t *feel* very lucky

It was useful to touch base with Robb, but this view into his storyline was over too quickly to feel worth doing in this episode. We don’t see Theon, Arya, Bran, Jaime, or Brienne either – presumably next week – so it could have been left until then. Logistically, however, Robb’s storyline is diverging significantly from the books, which makes it more interesting as I’m not sure what will happen next. Suspense!

Dragonstone

Davos, against all odds, washed up after the Battle of the Blackwater with nothing more than some wildfire burns, a raging thirst, and a bad case of sunburn. The pacing milks the little moments of tension as much as they can – will the ship see him? will he lie to them? do they support the right king? – but Davos is quickly rescued by Salladhor Saan, who is pretty pissed at Stannis for losing the battle and depriving him of his promised rewards (gold, and sex with Cersei). And at Davos, for wanting to go back to Dragonstone, where Melisandre is having anyone who doesn’t agree with her burned alive. Inviting.

But Davos doesn’t lie and is also totally implacable, so he gets back to Dragonstone anyway”¦ where Stannis greets his Hand warmly. Well, warmly for Stannis:

I heard you were dead.

But Davos gets nowhere with the defeated, stone-faced Stannis; Melisandre succeeds in both blaming Davos for his own son’s death and provoking him into drawing a knife on her, which gets him a stay in the dungeons, do not pass Go, do not collect $200. Stupid, straightforward, honourable Davos. He needs to take some lessons from his friend the King of Pragmatism, Salladhor Saan, and remember what happened to Ned Stark and his honourable actions.

Melisandre caresses Davos's face
Never promise crazy a baby.

This episode shows that despite the zombies, the warlocks, and the Ticklers, Melisandre is the creepiest character Game of Thrones has to offer. She’s clever and manipulative; she births demons, prophesies deaths, and burns people alive: and all because she believes she’s the good one. (for Pratchett fans, comparisons to Lilith are easy to draw).

King’s Landing

Things seem back to normal in the capital; Littlefinger’s brothel at least is doing good business, thanks to Ser Bronn of the Blackwater. Who is rudely interrupted by Podrick Payne, who Tyrion has sent to get Bronn back to the Red Keep. Tyrion, who barely survived assassination during the battle, is so afraid of what Cersei will do to him that he hides an axe behind the door and won’t let the Kingsguard anywhere near him. Cersei pretends to be nonchalant:

If I wanted to kill you, do you think I’d let a wooden door stop me?

but her questions prove she is anything but. She wants to know what “lies” Tyrion is planning to tell Tywin – about her, and about Joffrey. Tyrion parries,

It’s not slander if it’s true.

but how their conversation ended is a mystery to us, as Bronn shows up just in time. And is so pissed off at missing out on the pleasures of the brothel that he demands double pay. Ser Bronn is turning out to be an expensive friend to have.

Tyrion, as Cersei feared, does go to Tywin: but it’s not about her or her son. He wants his just reward for his actions as Hand and his defence of King’s Landing: he wants his birthright, the Lannister seat of Casterly Rock. Tywin refuses, in the strongest possible terms:

You ask that? You, who killed your mother to come into the world? You are an ill-made, devious, disobedient, spiteful little creature full of envy, lust, and low cunning. Men’s laws give you the right to bear my name and display my colours, since I cannot prove that you are not mine”¦ I would let myself be consumed by maggots before mocking our family name and naming you heir to Casterly Rock.

This scene is almost word-for-word true to the book, but seems a little inconsistent with Tywin’s on-screen character. We saw him assess Arya last season and making use of whoever he could; why would he not make use of Tyrion as he did when he made him Hand, even if he hates him personally? Is Tyrion Tywin’s one weakness, the one person who can make him lose his iron reserve? One thing is for sure, Tyrion is not going to just roll over for his father any more. He’s learned too much about the Game for that.

Tyrion walks away from Tywin
Love you too, Dad.

At the harbour, Sansa is trying to get Shae to play another game, imagining where the ships are going. Sansa is dreaming of escape, but Shae isn’t co-operating. They are interrupted by Ros and Littlefinger, who wants a private word with Sansa. He tells her he’s seen her mother (true) and implies he’s also seen Arya (true, if he recognised her as Tywin’s cupbearer at Harrenhal). Sansa begs him to help her escape, as he offered to last season, and he tells her to be ready on a moment’s notice. What has changed for Sansa: is the promise that Arya is alive enough to make her trust Littlefinger with her freedom – and her life?

As with Cersei and Tyrion, we don’t hear the end of their conversation; Ros (somehow) knows Shae used to be a colleague of sorts, but her attempts to make warm and fuzzies with Shae fall on deaf ears, until she takes the risk of warning her about Littlefinger and Sansa:

Ros: Watch out for her.

Shae: I always do.

Ros: Watch out for her with him.

So, did Ros take Varys up on his offer last season? Is she working for Littlefinger alone, or for both of the most duplicitous men in King’s Landing?

Ros and Shae watch Sansa with Littlefinger
Girls like us are good at keeping secrets.

The Virgin Margaery, meanwhile, is making herself quite at home in King’s Landing: visiting the poor and orphaned of the city, making friends, and influencing people. But she’s no soft-hearted pawn; while her charitable efforts seem genuine enough, she also takes care to graciously remind Joffrey and Cersei that their food supply now comes from the Tyrell lands. Cersei hates her; Joffrey mistrusts her but at the same time can’t take his eyes off her skin-skimming dresses. Who does Joffrey want her to be closer to, his mother, or his fiancée?

Margaery gives a toy knight to an orphan boy.
She has other knights, too.

Astapor

Dany and Jorah found a ship, but with the dragons growing too slowly, they cannot take Westeros without an army. Jorah knows where they can find one – the slave city of Astapor, famous for its slave army of Unsullied. Dany is repulsed by the thought of owning slaves, but becomes even more so when she hears details of their training, which involves killing newborn babies, and sees the slaver Kraznys mo Nakloz cut the nipple off another, who never flinches:

This one is pleased to have served you.

Jorah, former slaver himself, urges Dany to buy Unsullied anyway: they will be better treated by her anyway, and most importantly, she needs them to take Westeros. They are “a means to an end” for him. Their debate is interrupted by a blue-mouthed child who tries to assassinate Dany with a scorpion/manticore/thing: the Undying did not take kindly to the destruction of their House in Qarth. Dany survives this second attempt on her life thanks to a mysterious cloaked figure who turns out to be”¦ Barristan Selmy. Remember him? The Commander of the Kingsguard fired by Cersei way back in Season 1, his fighting skills eulogized by Jaime in Season 2, he now hates the Lannisters and has come to protect the rightful Queen of Westeros.

Barristan kneels in front of Dany.
You can call me Badass.

All her life, Dany has been told that Westeros wanted their rightful Targaryen heir on the throne, but this is the first actual evidence she’s seen of it. How can she refuse? I’m betting Jorah will try to persuade her against it; but can he succeed in persuading her to buy slaves as well?

So, what did you think? The episode felt very much like scene-setting for the rest of the season to come, with a few standout moments: Dany’s growing dragons; Cersei and Tyrion sparring; GIANTS; Sansa and Shae’s growing relationship. There wasn’t many moments that moved the plot on; still, at the start of the series, I appreciate a considered, deliberate episode. 

WARNING: if you want to talk about the books, please preface your comment with a ***spoiler***. 

Screencaps c/o screencapped.net. All images are the property of HBO.

10 replies on “New Show Recap: Game of Thrones, Episode 3.1, “Valar Dohaeris””

the way Tywin talked about Tyrion’s sleeping with whores and killing the next one found in his bed made me worried they’d done something to Shae (haven’t read the books- it’s all suspense to me!). Glad the next scene cut to her and Sansa.

But yes, this episode was really tame. I was hoping for something more out of the season opener, but I suppose they can’t all be fighting, intrigue, and nudity. Hoping next week has some Arya and Bran storylines…

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